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Overall Rating
4.37

Awesome63.74%
Worth A Look: 19.3%
Average: 11.11%
Pretty Bad: 1.75%
Total Crap: 4.09%

10 reviews, 111 user ratings


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Bubba Ho-Tep
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by Rob Gonsalves

"Absolutely one-of-a-kind."
5 stars

Here's a movie in which a geezer who may or may not be Elvis and an old black man who says he's John F. Kennedy team up against a mummy who's been stealing the souls of rest-home patients out of their assholes. Yet the film's director Don Coscarelli can refer to it as "a serious drama," and you see what he means.

Bubba Ho-Tep, a ready-made cult film if ever there was one, has been a grassroots sensation, selling out festivals and now, on DVD, flying off store shelves. Why? Because Coscarelli, mainly known for his 1979 horror oddity (and classic) Phantasm and its sequels, is at home with the weird and sees no need to emphasize it. The premise, taken from a Joe R. Lansdale story (collected in Writer of the Purple Rage, then published in a hardcover along with Coscarelli's script), is left-field enough, and Coscarelli digs inside it and comes up with surprising moments of poignance and delicacy.

Consider the broken-down Elvis (Bruce Campbell), with hip problems that necessitate a walker, and a possibly cancerous growth on his penis. Or Jack Kennedy (Ossie Davis), who gets around okay sometimes, but is later seen using a wheelchair. These are very fragile heroes, and when the mummy shows up at the rest home, we are worried about Elvis and Jack in a way we wouldn't be about hale and hearty young heroes. When Elvis tumbles down a hill, we wince. And the first reel or so of what's being marketed as a fun and funky cult flick is about as depressing as anything you'll ever see: rest homes are no fun -- people are left there to die, alone, and when they die they're tossed into a hearse with the eulogy "Aah, who gives a shit?" When was the last time you saw a raw and unblinking treatment of these places in a movie? How fucked-up is it that we have to see it in a movie about Elvis vs. a mummy?

Relax, though: fun is in store, and Bruce Campbell's Elvis, viciously cynical in his obsolescence, keeps us entertained in his narration: "I woulda thought of 'Cilla and popped it by jackin' off," he says of his penis growth, "except I hadn't had a hard-on in years." Too much info, but dead-on funny. Elvis needs a purpose, and the mummy gives him one; he forges a bond with Jack, the only one who believes Elvis is really Elvis, and they work on a plan. (It involves fire, not a lot of CGI. In fact, no CGI. How low-budget was the movie? Put it this way -- they didn't even have enough scratch to film a bus crashing off a bridge; Coscarelli gets around it with as much ingenuity as his heroes use against Bubba Ho-tep.)

Elvis famously posed for a photo with Nixon, and pledged his services to that president as a DEA agent (while high on drugs at the time); and there's been some joking speculation (at least I hope it's not serious) that Elvis killed Kennedy. So it's fun to watch these two icons of the 20th century together, and the movie even winks at conspiracy theorists when Jack asks Elvis flat-out if he had anything to do with what happened in Dallas. (Jack's explanation for his appearance now? Best to let the film explain it.) We're given a not-too-implausible theory of how Elvis, sick of the fame and excess and hangers-on, might have switched places with an Elvis impersonator and doomed himself to more obscurity than he bargained for. I wouldn't have minded seeing Jimi, Janis, and/or Jim Morrison too, but I guess Coscarelli has to save something for the sequel, projected to be called Bubba Nosferatu (sadly, though, Ossie Davis' JFK won't be along for the ride).

Most of the movie is Elvis and Jack talking -- Coscarelli clearly didn't have the time and money for too many shooting days involving Bubba Ho-tep and his little scarabs (pulled along on charmingly obvious strings) -- and Campbell and Davis have an easy rapport, playing the material absolutely straight, as if the two actors had decided over lunch that the premise was bizarre enough to deserve their utmost commitment and offbeat enough to need it. Bubba Ho-Tep is not the wacky camp-fest you'd expect; if it were anyone but Coscarelli, Campbell and Davis involved in this, I would've been wary of it. (I mean, 50,000 Elvis fans may not be wrong, but 50,000 Elvis parodies get old after a while.) It is, surprisingly, a meditation on aging and the place of the elderly and infirm in our society. Of course, it's also a horror-comedy with Elvis kicking mummy ass.

After all these years -- and 25 years after "Phantasm," a movie that had nothing in common with any horror film before it, and which is still unlike any horror film after it (except for its own sequels) -- Don Coscarelli still doesn't know how to make cookie-cutter genre films. Let's hope he never learns how.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=6101&reviewer=416
originally posted: 12/24/06 16:20:43
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 SXSW Film Festival. For more in the 2003 South By Southwest Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Seattle Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Seattle Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

10/21/15 xkwdutyohth USA 3 stars
8/13/14 PAUL SHORTT LIKEABLE SPOOF, WITH A GOOD STAR PERFORMANCE 3 stars
12/29/09 Chad Dillon Cooper Elvis & JFK vs. mummy. Doesn't get much beeter than this. 5 stars
7/14/09 faiche13 fun, funny, funky 4 stars
6/23/08 bored mom A classic, and Texas has all the best weird fictionists 5 stars
3/21/08 mr.mike Has a few laughs , mostly from B.C. 3 stars
8/28/07 LtA Weird isn't funny. Weird for the sake of weird is NOT creative. 1 stars
5/14/07 Mike Koziol so much potential, a movie that didn't know where it wanted to go: comedy or more serious 2 stars
12/30/06 AJ Muller Story by the Texas Mojo Master done perfect by Coscarelli; Elvis by Campbell even better. 5 stars
12/01/06 kevin haile boring! 2 stars
11/03/06 Hauzy love Bruce Campbell but this just blew me away!! 5 stars
8/19/06 zaw Wow! 5 stars
8/04/06 Agent Sands Really funny premise, but very forgettable. 3 stars
4/24/06 Annie Treat yourself to a great little movie with lots of laughs! 5 stars
4/21/06 Becky Funny, great music. Bruce when Sebastain first meets Elvis= priceless 5 stars
11/22/05 Kurtis J. Beard Hilarious. 3 stars
10/01/05 matt good, but could have been better 4 stars
9/09/05 Mike This was a awesome moive, I never laughted so hard before. 5 stars
8/17/05 ES What a great idea, silly yet excellently done 4 stars
8/09/05 C. Fidance I absolutely love this movie; Bruce and Ossie are terrific! 5 stars
7/24/05 Reverse_Bear-Trap_101_"SAW" Good... But, not great! 3 stars
6/15/05 DM So gleefully bizarre it's almost touching. The fact that it's funny doesn't hurt either. 4 stars
5/28/05 Gary Bruce is great, but everything else was disappointing. Saw in a theatre. 2 stars
4/20/05 Dan Fun cult film, especially for Bruce Campbell fans 4 stars
4/17/05 Cary Gordon Builds brilliant, 5 stars
4/05/05 Eugene Mortensen ok if you like camp strange films 3 stars
4/02/05 Tom Benton Clever, very funny horror-comedy; Campbell and Davis are terrific. 5 stars
3/25/05 malcontent strictly for Coscarelli and Campbell lovers 3 stars
3/24/05 erebus45 Charming, engaging and Very, very well done 5 stars
3/15/05 brody horan the man must only have one nut snd be 13 years old 5 stars
3/09/05 LarryV Nice little B-flick. Ossie Davis and Bruce C. rock. 4 stars
3/05/05 Sam Eskenazi not for the unintelligent 4 stars
3/03/05 HORAN THE MAN!!!!! ELVIS CAN SUCK MY LEFT NUT!! 1 stars
2/07/05 Jeff Anderson THIS IS THE BRUCE CAMPBELL FILM TO REMEMBER & DON COSCARELLI'S AS WELL! TRULY GREAT!!!!!!!! 5 stars
12/11/04 Phil M. Aficionado Campy, innovative labor of love; total fun; Bruce/Ossie just plain fabulous 5 stars
11/25/04 Jason If Brian Mckay likes this movie I don't trust any other review he does this movie sucks ass 1 stars
10/28/04 Raven nothing happens in this movie at all NOTHING, its a borefest with some ok characterization 1 stars
9/09/04 Otto Schmidt This movie is the best drama-horror-comedy I have ever seen :) 5 stars
8/31/04 Matthieu very NICE, ORIGINAL story, not a girl and a boy who makes love at the end 5 stars
8/27/04 Mike Stanbridge Hope they find the funds to make the prequels! 5 stars
8/23/04 Samuel Great, from beginning to end! 5 stars
7/29/04 American Slasher Goddess One of the best in the genre, that I've seen in a long time. 5 stars
7/25/04 Drew-P Great fun. I even thought the beetles did a nice job of acting. 4 stars
7/23/04 Lord Durvok 2 "NOBODY f**ks with the king!" 5 stars
7/20/04 N. Christopher Bell This movie sucks. And I'm a Bruce Campbell fan (actual member of the fanclub). 1 stars
7/19/04 Jessica Gill If you remember that it's supposed to be campy, you'll love it. 4 stars
7/17/04 Uncle Phucker Fucking genius! Unique and fun film. Great fun and actors. 5 stars
7/11/04 Jim Delivers laughs and a few genuine scares. Campbell & Davis both excellent. 4 stars
6/20/04 Jean Funny, crazy, bruce & elvis, no need to say more. 4 stars
6/12/04 Tony Merlocco Loved it! VERY FUNNY! 5 stars
6/11/04 Wolf Slightly overrated, but good acting all around. Musical score + Ossie were awesome. 3 stars
6/10/04 DodoLurker Tremendous effort by the actors, well-shot, just terrific 5 stars
6/10/04 Jack Bourbon It was a sebaceous cyst 5 stars
6/09/04 othree Elvis' character and dialog was the keeper 4 stars
6/08/04 tatum Original, hilarious, touching, loved it 5 stars
6/02/04 Turtle If an Elvis were to record a song to describe this film, it would be, "I'm All Fucked-Up." 4 stars
6/01/04 maggie imaginative-interesting 4 stars
5/27/04 A F Elvis, black JFK, Mummy, how can you go wrong? Who thinks this shit up? Genius, Pure Genius 5 stars
5/27/04 fixer Great fun... What more could you want? 5 stars
5/27/04 bigmomma its kinda dumb 3 stars
5/15/04 Lord Durvok 2 The fact that Bruce didn't win "Best Actor" for the year shows that there is no justice. 5 stars
5/11/04 Morally Sound Freaking hillarious! Bruce Campell IS Elvis! The part with the graffiti is so funny! 5 stars
5/02/04 DarthFredo excellent movie, very amusing 5 stars
4/11/04 Peter A great film that deals with old age and life in general 5 stars
3/19/04 Cary Gordon A bit slower than I expected in parts but still a really fun watch. 5 stars
3/09/04 Caiphn Finally got to see it! Drags in parts, Bruce as Elvis is top-notch. 4 stars
1/15/04 Betty White Ossie Davis is wonderful is this unique horror flick. 5 stars
1/10/04 AC No tantamount asskicking has ever been displyed. 5 stars
1/09/04 Kara Excellent!!!!! -- except for the final minute 5 stars
12/10/03 JJMAN FAN-Fucking-TASTIC! It's ok Barry, this movie wasn't made for morons without a clue. 5 stars
12/09/03 Dan Davis Excellent, ball-buster for sure!! 5 stars
12/07/03 Punk_Ass This is one great movie. Very funny, yet touching. barry, you are a fucking idiot. 5 stars
12/04/03 Andrew Callaway Most awesome movie ever? Yes. Better than Evil Dead II. See it NOW! 5 stars
12/02/03 Barry Weiner The voice-over is a cop-out. Don't tell me, show me. 1 stars
11/28/03 john oh boy..what a great surprise this movie is...honest, funny, endearing and very moving 5 stars
11/10/03 Lord Jiggy Touching, moving, surprising...in spite of cheesy horror and bedpan humor. 5 stars
10/27/03 Jen hilarious and yet strangely touching 5 stars
10/23/03 Lord Durvok II Great acting and story. At first I thought, "No way in hell is Bruce gonna pull this off!" 5 stars
10/18/03 Kyle FUCKING INCREDIBLE. 5 stars
10/17/03 Jaded I love Bruce and I saw this with a very open mind but it was a big snooze. Not funny. 3 stars
10/16/03 Robbie This was not written by Coscarelli, but adapted from the short by Joe R Lansdale 5 stars
10/15/03 Nancy Cary Truly original. Great acting. 5 stars
10/11/03 nick2k speaking from a non-fanboy stance...i must say this was damn good AND hella funny! 5 stars
10/07/03 Ryan Bruce Campbell IS Elvis. 5 stars
10/07/03 Erik Van Sant You too will want a growth on the end of your schlong...God bless you, Bruce Campbell. 5 stars
10/07/03 Titus I've been waiting for this forever, and it was worth it. GO! 5 stars
9/26/03 Jon This movie is retardedly good! 5 stars
9/26/03 John That was fantastic! Don't miss that movie!!!! 5 stars
9/23/03 The F-Bomb BRUCE CAMPBELL IS THE MESSIAH!!! ASH IS GOD!!!!!!!! 5 stars
9/20/03 Lee Bubba Ho-Tep kicked all kinds of boo-tay! 5 stars
7/30/03 Sunnyd The film is great and we hope it gains the presentation it deserves!! 5 stars
7/11/03 Mike Smith Starts in Portland Oregon September 19th. www.bubbahotep.com 5 stars
7/06/03 Darren I drove 2 hours, waited in line 4 hours, got lucky with tickets and saw bruce as the king. 5 stars
6/16/03 matthew fuck 1 stars
5/31/03 Jonathan Stokes (Stokesy) Bruce is better that ever. Its about time he takes the leading over again since Evil Dead 5 stars
5/20/03 Wallace this was one of the best films i've ever seen, bruce is the man 5 stars
5/01/03 I think "steve" is my dad I thought it was very funny and a good mummy movie. 5 stars
4/29/03 Pete A wee bit of class on film 5 stars
3/31/03 Will awesome, awesome movie 5 stars
3/28/03 Mike Smith Incredible flick. See it if you can. 5 stars
3/25/03 Tom like it 3 stars
3/23/03 Goofy Maxwell Saw Bruce@E. Lansing Film Fest.: Presley estate makin' Don do the Ho-tep 2step. (inbreds!) 5 stars
3/13/03 Mister Bigglesworth Hollywood's distrubution sucks.(inbreds!) Give us damn good dvd and watch the sales soar! 5 stars
12/03/02 jason decent but slow. 3 stars
11/20/02 mj Saw it at Toronto. Amazing. Funny, yet surprisingly emotional. 5 stars
10/20/02 Marc Morrison It's like an introspective Evil Dead 4 5 stars
10/05/02 steve This film needs Distribution!!! 5 stars
10/04/02 XH It Rocks! 5 stars
9/16/02 jon solita Saw it at Flashback Weekend in Chicago. Great film, and has an unexpected emotional weight. 5 stars
9/11/02 will saw it at toronto film festival, it was excellent! 5 stars
8/31/02 E. H. Bennett Visually exciting, touching story, great acting all around. Please sell it soon, Don! 5 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  19-Sep-2003 (R)
  DVD: 25-May-2004

UK
  N/A

Australia
  24-Feb-2005




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